How seldom we are heroes in our women's eyes. More often When pressured by a hard-boiled mechanic to overpay for repairs Or when taps leak we cannot fix, we are rewarded not by eyes that soften But by irritible gestures or sarcasm or silence or glares. ----------------- Yesterday we sat in a bushwillow's shade sipping iced water Laced with lemon; I remarked on the bareness of a rock alder Ravished by hairy caterpillars black as termite holes and no shorter Than your slender green fingers. Now the tree, still young, was balder Than I! You laughed then said: but the grove of alders along the path Past the cottage is just as ruined; and there caterpillars lie at the feet Of the trees under old bushwillow leaves in black masses; bath- Fulls of caterpillars, yugh, haven't you seen them crawling their beat Through the garden these past weeks? But then, typical male, Blind to everything....come, let me show you how many there are before The grey cuckoos feast them away, or they pupate, or their bodies grow stale. We walked towards the cottage, then you stopped, awe On your seasoned face, and pointed to a small bush with spiky bole Just off the path. Last year in autumn, nine months away >From this hot summer, a full-bellied chameleon dug a hole Near this bush, and vanished inside for one night. At day- Break she emerged, covered over the hole, then with slow Satisfied gait went her migrating way. I remember your shouting To me to watch each event, and you placed a stick to show Us later where it happened. All year that stick lay rotting In the garden, forgotten (by me, typical male). But now you knelt On the path and waved me over to see a tiny hole Alongside the stick's remains, and said: They've hatched. I felt A child's excitement and expectation, fulfilled the child's role Of follower as your eyes wandered back to the spiky shrub: And there like five dewdrops five tiny beings clung to the stems As though these were mother's breasts; and if one should rub One's fingers across their little bodies one would erase them, So fine were their arms and legs, like silk, and miniature eyes Rotating as one's finger draws near, and tails coiled and clinging. Caterpillars forgotten we knelt and stared and surmised As to how many others there may be, and were close to singing. Towards evening the dewdrops melted away, but we weren't there To see, then last night by torchlight we found them on other plants and trees, One to each, as though they had held a meeting, and each knew where To go; but one was on a tendril in a tangled creeper, and the breeze Blew it back and forth. This morning it was still swaying there. I asked How it could find food that way. We were rushing to work, I in my new suit, But I found a stick and knelt and coaxed it onto the stick, gripped by the task Of finding it a better position, like a saviour or job agency. Its fingers caught The stick, its legs one by one slowly unfolded onto the stick, then its tail Curved around the stick until fingers, legs and tail gave it full support So that when I raised it it wasn't afraid but stared at me from a pale Rotating eye with dark pinpoint centre. I barged through our bush Looking for a perch, then found a tiny alder with some Leaves, low enough for a creature to crawl off in a rush Should some bird or cat be prowling, and coaxed it with my thumb Until it was clinging to a new home. Someone was watching me. I whirled Around and there you were, I had forgotten you all this while, And there was something in your eyes I hadn't seen before. My heart twirled Like a ballerina but couldn't speak, so shy I'd become, and your smile Was coy and full of admiration; then silently you turned to your car. I stood up shaking, shaking leaves from my new suit. So now I knew What it took to be a hero, and how it was. ----------- Tonight, my love, you will be my star And I yours; there are countless stars in heaven, but on earth too few.
Converted to HTML by Renette Davis with permission from the author Leon Joffe, whose wife Pitta has Huntington's Disease.
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Last updated: Dec. 7, 2010